(1) GET YOUR VIRTUAL SDCC HYPE HERE. The event starts July 23 but today San Diego Comic-Con started its day-by-day unveiling of the five-day schedule: “The Comic-Con@Home 2020 Programming Schedule”. (The Wednesday, July 23 schedule released today is summarized by Variety here.)
We’re two weeks away from the debut of Comic-Con@Home 2020! And even though this is a very different year, we’re happy to announce we’ll be sticking with the Comic-Con tradition of announcing our panel schedule two weeks in advance. Over the next five days, we’ll reveal our daily online programming line-up for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 22–26, with complete programming descriptions. The panels themselves will not be available until those dates, but you’ll be able to read all about them and build your own schedule of programs you want to watch during Comic-Con@Home 2020!
Comic-Con@Home 2020 will feature over 350 separate panels spread out over all five days of the event. There will be something for everyone! Here’s how it works:
(2) WORLDBUILDERS FUNDRAISER. The annual Geeks Doing Good Showcase hosted by Worldbuilders, the nonprofit organization founded by Patrick Rothfuss of the Kingkiller Chronicle series, starts on July 13 and goes through July 20, 2020.
This week Worldbuilders will feature multiple live-streamed interviews, discussions, from authors, artists, and more. All of which will take place on the Worldbuilders Twitch Channel.
The first day’s schedule is –
Schedule for Monday, July 13, 2020
Patrick Rothfuss Livestreams Twitch
When: 12pm – 2pm CDT
Patrick will be streaming on his Twitch channel at 12pm. Come hang out with Patrick and chat away!
Meet the new Worldbuilders!
When: 2pm – 3pm CDT
Come join us as we get to know the new members of the Worldbuilders team!
‘Picture this,” someone says. “A juicy green apple. Can you see it?”
Of course I can’t see it. My head is filled with all things apple; the central concept connects with myriad associated topics: orchards, trees, red apples, rotting apples, cider, blossom, an endless web that spreads along more and more tenuous connections. But of course I can’t see it. I usually say yes, though, because I assume it’s a figure of speech.
But 98% of people actually do see the thing they’re imagining, like a picture in their head. The other 2%, like me, are aphantasic. There’s a line I like in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” I found out I was aphantasic slowly, then all at once. Decades ago, my wife began visualisation for meditation. I couldn’t do it. Not only could I not see an imaginary orange, I couldn’t see a circle or the colour orange. But I understood visualisation to be a special skill that you worked on. Rather like juggling. And I was sure that with practice I could accomplish either one of those….
… If any genre deserves and encourages the spawning of Big Enormous Labour of Love Projects it is epic fantasy and Adam has taken that genre’s appendix-aesthetic into his own History of Epic Fantasy (https://thewertzone.blogspot.com/search/label/history%20of%20epic%20fantasy) and then went onto a major cartographic project mapping out the continents of George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (https://atlasoficeandfireblog.wordpress.com/). You don’t need to be a fan of either epic fantasy in general or Game of Thrones in particular to appreciate the time and effort put into either of those projects over several years….
(5) IT STINKS. Lili Loofbourow delivered a kind of “state of the internet” message. Thread starts here.
(6) #SFFPLEDGE. The #SFFpledge is circulating – today The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists boosted the signal.
One of the figures named in the pledge, Noah Bradley, wrote this in June:
The other person named, Samuel Flegal, artist and co-founder of the art camp One Fantastic Week, issued an apology on Facebook for unspecified acts against women he had contact with. The Facebook post is no longer publicly available, but an analysis of his statement has been posted by M M Schill on her Patreon, here, and it contains a screencap of the post.
In public posts on the topic, this one links to the tweeted statement of Eunjoo Han who does not name the harasser being discussed, but he is alleged to be Flegal.
… It’s the store I’ve held all my San Francisco events at, basically for as long as I’ve been doing events at all. I’ve supported Borderlands annually as a patron, and I lent the store money to purchase a new building, which it’s currently in the process of moving to.
It actually and genuinely hurt to read these accusations, which I believe. I wrote yesterday on Twitter that I was in shock about it, and I still am. This one stirs up emotions for me in a way I’m not prepared to publicly quantify or express. Suffice to say it hits close to home on a number of levels.
…After discussions with community leaders, health officials, and the surge of COVID-19 cases in Utah the past few weeks, we feel it’s in the best interest of our community to postpone.
During such a difficult and unprecedented time for everyone, we appreciate your support and the outpouring of love which has been shown to us. It’s because of this love and continued support from the FanX community that we’ve been able to bring you 12 events over the past seven years and make Salt Lake City, Utah a premier pop culture event. It’s also the reason we’ve already begun planning FanX 2021 and can take this opportunity to invite you to join us in celebrating together again on September 16-18, 2021!
(9) CURSES, FIELD AGAIN. A theory about a possible chain of influence linked to Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1932 article on “The name ‘Nodens’” published as an appendix to Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman, and Post-Roman Site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, is a discussion of three inscriptions found at the excavations which he concluded is the name of an unrecorded deity. Did one of those inscriptions reference another ancient find, a gold ring? Thread starts here.
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
July 10, 1981 — Time Bandits has its U.K. premiere. It was co-written (with Michael Palin), produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam. It starred Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Kenny Baker, Jack Purvis, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Peter Vaughan, and David Warner. Gilliam has said that the film was the first in his Trilogy of Imagination, followed by Brazil and ending with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Criticsloved the film, the box office was excellent, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 77% rating.
July 10, 1981 — John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered. (That was how it was shown on-screen.) Starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, this film was written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle. It was directed by John Carpenter, and produced by Larry Franco and Debra Hill. Supporting cast was Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton. The film received generally positive reviews with Russell in particular finding favor with the critics; it did very well at the box office earning far more than it cost to produce; and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 76% rating.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 10, 1875 – E.C. Bentley. Invented the clerihew.
Edmund Clerihew Bentley Wrote “Exactly As It Happened”. He Did not quite manage science fiction. But he had very good diction.
(Died 1956) [JH]
Born July 10, 1903 — John Wyndham. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. Both iBooks and Kindle have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles, though little of his short fiction is available alas. (Died 1969.) (CE)
Born July 10, 1908 – Carl Jacobi. Ten dozen short stories for us, in Amazing, Planet, Startling, Thrilling Wonder; also Weird Tales and Doc Savage; farther from our field, Maclean’s, Railroad, Short Stories, Top-Notch. Known to have started a novel but if completed it has not appeared. Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish. “Mive” (1928) won a U. Minn. contest judged by Margaret Banning; Lovecraft bought it for Weird Tales, saying “I was glad to see at least one story whose weirdness of incident was made convincing by adequate emotional preparation and suitably developed atmosphere.” Attended Torcon II the 31st Worldcon. (Died 1997) [JH]
Born July 10, 1911 – Jack Coggins. Thirty book & magazine covers, a few interiors, for us; a thousand paintings; oils mainly on marine subjects; art classes; four dozen books, some reprinted by Dover. With Fletcher Pratt, Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles & Space Ships and By Space Ship to the Moon. Here is an early cover for Galaxy. Here is one for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Master Pastelist of Pastel Soc. America, Fellow of Am. Soc. Marine Artists. Int’l Ass’n of Astronomical Artists Hall of Fame. (Died 2006) [JH]
Born July 10, 1917 – Don Herbert. In World War II, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak-leaf clusters. Invented and won a Peabody for Watch Mr. Wizard (television 1951-1965, 1971-1972; later Mr. Wizard’s World 1983-1990, re-runs until 2000); he and a boy or girl did science experiments, many seeming impossible at first glance, most such as viewers could re-create. “Eight hundred thousand viewers per episode…. over five thousand Mr. Wizard Science Clubs … total membership over a hundred thousand,” Science on the Air p. 227 (M. LaFollette, 2008). A good neighbor. (Died 2007) [JH]
Born July 10, 1931 — Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the Bodiless, Diamond Mask and Magnificat. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at Sasquan. John has a very nice look at her here. (Died 2017.) (CE)
Born July 10, 1941 — David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”. I certainly fondly remember The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading to dip into on whim. (Died 2016.) (CE)
Born July 10, 1941 — Susan Seddon Boulet. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.) (CE)
Born July 10, 1945 — Ron Glass. Probably best genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Jerry Merris, a SF horror film and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it as an impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.) (CE)
Born July 10, 1953 – Chôhei Kambayashi, 67. A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories. In “The Enemy Is the Pirate” a reluctant human hero is forced to co-operate with a wisecracking cat. “Full of Kindnesses” is set in a Japan so riddled with bureaucracy that even thieves and gangsters must obtain a license. In the world of “Prism” all human needs are met, but inhabitants are forbidden to ask why. Eight Seiun Awards, Nihon SF Taishô Award. [JH]
Born July 10, 1970 — John Simm, 50. The second of the modern Masters on Doctor Who. He appeared in the final three episodes of the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia”, “The Sound of Drums”, and “Last of the Time Lords”. He also played Sam Tyler in Life on Mars. (CE)
Born July 10, 1981 – Karen Russell, 38. One novel, thirty shorter stories. A short version of Swamplandia! appeared in The New Yorker (“My older sister has entire kingdoms inside her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather”). Collections, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, two more. Interview in the May 2013 Lightspeed. [JH]
(12) COMICS SECTION.
R. E. Parrish finds family talking about their “accomplishments” boring.
For the first time a system of 78 mobile floodgates has been tested in Venice, after years beset by delays and corruption.
The 1.5km (one-mile) Mose system of yellow dams was a “powerful project that has taken years to complete”, said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Venice was hit by the worst floods in half a century in November 2019.
Environmental protesters took to the lagoon on Friday, saying the barriers would damage the area.
Critics argue the sluice-gate system is 10 years too late. Work on the Mose project started in 2003, even though it was designed in the 1980s. It has gone three times over its original budget and resulted in the arrest of dozens of officials, the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville reports from Rome.
…Been binge re-watching the Netflix show Dark. The 3rd season just dropped, so hubby and I are rewatching the first two seasons as fast as we can. this IS the show of the summer! umm, how to explain? Think Twin Peaks meets Stranger Things, plus a metric ton of time travel. And the soundtrack! omg, so good!!
DO: watch the show and take your own notes for a family tree. Different story lines follow different generations, so you’ll want to keep track of who is married to who, who is the parent and child of who, etc.
DON’T: use google to learn about this show. the less you know about the show and the plot going in, the better. the internet is solid spoilers.
not a spoiler: the first time I saw season one, I though Jonas was a cool but annoying character. Why is he so quiet? Why doesn’t he seem to react to things? why does he seem so passive? Yeah, he’s might be quiet, but he is NOT passive. the poor kid is a bundle of nerves and a total mess inside.
At the beginnings of my forays into science fiction, it quickly became clear Solaris was one of the key texts, and so a physical copy of the book has been on my shelves for years. There were two reasons I didn’t take it out sooner. The main thing was me having the wrong idea of what it was about. I’m not sure why, but I thought the story focused on a crew slowly growing mad, and I’d mentally labeled it something like ‘psychological horror in space’, a genre I’m not that interested in. The other reason was Steven Soderbergh’s adaption: I’d seen it in a movie theater when it came out back in 2002, and while I don’t remember any other thing about it, at the time my reaction was lukewarm at best.
It was only after a conversation in the comments to my review of Asimov’s The Gods Themselves that I realized I had the wrong idea about the book. That conversation was with Polish native Ola G, and it turns out she wrote two excellent pointers about Stanislaw Lem, here and here – do click on those if you want an accessible yet fairly thorough overview of Lem. On the strength of Solaris and Ola’s posts, I have added Fiasco, The Invincible and The Cyberiad to my TBR….
Kim Libreri, an award-winning visual effects artist based in Northern California, has worked on movies including Artificial Intelligence and War of the Planet of the Apes.
For nine years he has been working with a piece of technology better known for computer games, in particular the smash-hit Fortnite.
The Unreal Engine, owned by Epic Games, provides the building blocks and tools that a computer game developer needs, but is increasingly an attractive technology for TV and film producers.
The latest version of technology, Unreal Engine 5, is coming out next year, and Epic has been heavily trailing its features.
It should allow visual effects artists like Mr Libreri to slot graphics and images straight into a scene, with little fuss.
“With traditional filmmaking, a director and cinematographer might shoot a scene on set -then down the line, hand footage and creative direction off to a team of virtual reality artists and designers, who enhance that material with visual effects and computer-generated imagery in a separate phase of production, says Mr Libreri, who is now chief technology officer at Epic Games.
With Unreal Engine collaboration between the director, cinematographer, production designer and virtual reality teams can occur simultaneously as an interactive process on set.
“Unreal Engine 5 promises to further free the artistic process by making it easier to take virtual worlds developed for feature film and television, and run them in the game engine in real time,” says Mr Libreri.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This isn’t part of the new Disney+ package despite featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda and another signer of the Declaration. From 2015:
“Button,” Colbert’s (3-minute) counterpoint/companion to Hamilton, about another of the Dec of Ind signers, “Button Gwinnett,” here sung by Lin-Manuel and Stephen.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, StephenfromOttawa, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
Okay, the world continues to go mad, with Covid-19, racism, and social injustice rampant. (Tonight, for instance, they’re tear-gassing people in D.C. again, coronavirus cases in Arizona are spiking, and two megachurch conmen are claiming they’ve invented a new air conditioning that kills 99.9 per cent of the virus. Note: They haven’t.)
I spend most of my days yelling and/or screaming at the TV and obsessing about how nuts everything is and how many things need to be fixed, and today’s no exception, but some of the time, just to keep a tenuous hold on our sanity, my family and I try to think about stuff that has nothing to do with the mayhem around us. To that end, my husband quilts, my daughter does the Getty Art Challenge, I read Agatha Christie mysteries, and together my daughter and I make up lists of favorite books and movies.
We thought you might need to take a mental break occasionally, too, so we’re sharing this, but I don’t want you to think that we’re not still VERY AWARE of how much is wrong and how much we need to do to rescue the world from its current messes.
So, in that spirit…
My daughter Cord and I had so much fun coming up with our lists of books that we reread over and over again, that we decided to put together another list, this one of movies and books that you should definitely read and/or watch….
5. BOOK: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen MOVIE: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant)
It’s impossible to improve on Jane Austen, but Emma Thompson almost pulls it off in her brilliant script for the 1995 movie, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. She got rid of a bunch of extraneous characters and equally extraneous scenes and made the younger sister Margaret (a mere cipher in the novel) into a charming and fully-developed character who by the end was my favorite: “He’s kneeling down!”
(2) IGNORE THOSE CLICKBAIT WEBSITES. That’s what George R.R. Martin says. He means the other ones, not mine, I’m sure. Even if I am also linking to his Winds of Winter progress report. Because we all want to know!
…If nothing else, the enforced isolation [of the pandemic] has helped me write. I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress. I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week. But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week. It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go. Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.
… Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah. I will be dropping back into Braavos next week. I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.
I do wish they would go faster, of course. Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month. I fear I shall never recapture that pace again. Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then.
George is also preparing to participate in the virtual Worldcon.
…I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world. In between tapings, I return to Westeros.
Some inventive Doctor Who fans — and Nate — showed off their costume-making talents to the world, with The Doctors themselves assessing the results.
The Late Late Show host and former Who cast member James Corden put out a call to Doctor Who fans to compete in a cosplay challenge where they would have some 24 hours to create a costume from the show “using only objects from around their homes.” This is, in fact, keeping with the tradition of the classic series, which has often been teased for its wobbly sets and very low-budget aesthetic. (Seriously, some of the creatures were clearly made from bubble wrap.)
James Corden also did an interview segment with the two actors.
Aaron Robertson: I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek, poetic quality of the annotations. I wonder if you have any literary influences of your own with those?
Leslie Klinger: The big “literary influence” on me is the best Sherlockian scholarship, written by hundreds of amateur scholars who love the world of Holmes and Doyle. Dorothy Sayers famously explained how Sherlockians approach the stories in their scholarship: “The rule of the game is that it must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.”
I have carried that approach—the Sherlockian “game”—over to other books that I’ve annotated, pretending (or “pretending”) that the stories are true and analyzing them from a biographical/historical perspective. Could the character have really done that? Are the historical aspects presented true or made up?
Neil—no mean Sherlockian himself—is especially adept at weaving reality into his fiction. I discovered that in detail in the course of annotating Gaiman’s Sandman and so fully expected to find a wealth of historical underpinnings here.
…Actors Sandra Oh, Phillipa Soo, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles and newcomer Cathy Ang joined producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, along with director Glen Keane, to discuss the making of the movie, a musical adventure about a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Ang), who builds her own rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove the existence of the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e (Soo).
Soo, a Tony Award nominee for her work in “Hamilton,” noted that she has known about the story of Chang’e since childhood, through a children’s book written by Amy Tan. “I remember as a kid, asking my dad to read it over and over and over to me. Because I was just obsessed with this idea of the moon lady,” Soo said. “And when I was asked to play her, I was of course honored because it’s so infrequent that I’m being asked to play specifically Chinese characters. And also even more rare that I get to be in a film with incredible Asian actors who are surrounding me. So when I read the script and they invited me to come join them to create this beautiful story, I was, of course, immediately on board and so excited.”
(6) AGENT DROPS KRUEGER DUE TO ALLEGATIONS. Publishers Lunch reported today:
Agent DongWon Song announced that he was dropping Filipino-American fantasy author Paul Krueger as a client after allegations were made on Twitter that Krueger had harassed multiple women in publishing, although the specifics of the complaints available on that platform were unclear and mostly second-hand. Krueger posted a vague apology but has since deleted his Twitter account, and one person who publicly accused Krueger subsequently made her account private. DongWon said in his tweet, “I have terminated my professional relationship with Paul Krueger. This was a difficult decision to make but it is the right one.” He referred to “new information coming to light” in the past week and said he had “spoken to several people directly impacted by Paul’s behavior,” later adding, “Thank you to those of you who spoke up. That took courage and I am grateful to you all.”
… So how do you store 12.5 million books — and not only books, but maps, manuscripts, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers too? By 2009, the New Bodleian (which had 11 floors of space) as well as facilities at Nuneham Courtenay and a salt mine in Cheshire (yes, really) were at capacity. Costing approximately £25 million, and involving the biggest book-move in the Bodleian’s history (6.5 million items!), the BSF needed some serious storage. As we entered the main warehouse, it became clear that they really pulled it off.
… The BSF is huge. Its shelves are 11 metres high and over 70 metres long. Before the automatic lights kick in, the narrow aisles seem to converge into darkness. We wore high-visibility jackets to alert staff driving the book-retrieval vehicles to our presence. A cross between a cherry-picker and a forklift, these vehicles are configured to fit exactly between the shelves, allowing staff to retrieve an impressive average of one book per minute. Although I personally wouldn’t like to be 11 metres up in the air, Boyd assured us it’s a very safe operation!
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 23, 1983 — Twilight Zone: The Movie premiered. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis who says they conceived it as a cinematic interpretation of the 1959–1964 TV series at created by Rod Serling. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow, with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. Burgess Meredith took over as Host, the position of Rod Serling, in the series. So how did it fare? Critics were generally lukewarm, although some like as New York Times‘ media critic Vincent Canby, who called the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth” were almost angry. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 54% rating.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 75. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and Others, Steampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. (CE)
Born June 23, 1946 — Ted Shackelford, 74. He’s mostly remembered as Lieutenant Patrick Brogan on Space Precinct which lasted a single season of thirty-four episodes. It was created and produced by Gerry Anderson. It combined live action, full-body prosthetics, puppetry, and Supermacromation techniques. The writing crew likewise was huge — thirty-seven are listed at IMDB. Likewise the cast was immense, Ted Shackelford, Simone Bendix, Lou Hirsch and Richard James who a cast of thirty-seven actors according ISFDB! He had the usual one-offs in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Deadman’s Gun and The Outer Limits. (CE)
Born June 23, 1951 – Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (CE)
Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 67. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company meddled with production. He would later release this film as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed several episodes of The Hunger, On The Beach, Perversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt. (CE)
Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 57. He won a Hugo Award for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, China’s SFF awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? (CE)
Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 48. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. (CE)
Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 20. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”. She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired! (CE)
Born June 23, 1896 – Paul Orban. His first sale was a watercolor at age 14 for $5 – about $135 in money of 2020. Fifty years later he had done a dozen covers, some fourteen hundred interiors. Brian Aldiss said he expressed “perennial things – unending quests, great aspirations, long farewells, and a welcoming pair of arms on the far side of light.” Here is a cover for Astounding magazine. Here is a cover for Marooned on Mars. Here is an interior for The World of Null-A. Here is an interior for Norman Menasco’s “Trigger Tale”. (Died 1974) [JH]
Born June 23, 1931 – Nancy Share. With her sister Marie-Louise Share produced the fanzine Hodge-Podge for SAPS (the Spectator Amateur Press Society); with Larry Touzinsky, Fan To See (she was Art Director) which had contributions and letters from Robert Bloch, Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Juanita Wellons (later J. Coulson). When Wrai Ballard wrote Non-Poetry that poetry-haters might like, NS countered with Am-So Poetry. After the revelations of Ghu, Foo (or Foofoo), and Roscoe, NS proclaimed Ignatz. She married Art Rapp, the first Rosconian. (Died 2002) [JH]
Born June 23, 1937 – Richard Curtis, age 83. Edited the anthology Future Tense; audio anthology Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy; wrote Squirm, a movie novelization; a few shorter stories. Best known as a literary agent; contributed “Agent’s Corner” to Locus 1980-1992, collected as Mastering the Business of Writing (rev. 1996). [JH]
Born June 23, 1947 – Mark Olson, F.N., age 73. Active Boston fan; has been President and Treasurer of both NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) and MCFI (Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc., which has produced three Worldcons, four Smofcons). Chaired Boskone 23 and Noreascon 3 (47th Worldcon). Fan Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 9, Minicon 34, WindyCon 33. Fellow of NESFA, a service honor. Active with fanhistory Website fanac.org (fanac = fan activity; FANAC = Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions ran the 50th Worldcon, then started the Website); oversees Fancyclopedia 3. Fanzine, The Typo Machein. [JH]
Born June 23, 1967– Tommy Ferguson, age 53. Founded the Queen’s University of Belfast Science Fiction & Fantasy Society. Lived in Belfast, Toronto, Belfast. Long-time fanzine Tommyworld – TF beat Claire Brialey, Tom Digby, Mike Glyer, Cheryl Morgan, Ted White, and me for Best Fanwriter in the 1998 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards – now a Website. [JH]
Born June 23, 1981 – Ertaç Altinöz, age 39. Digital artist (his name actually uses a dotless-i character which in Turkish stands for a sound different from i, but the software won’t show it). Here is a cover for Clarkesworld 49. Here is Shireen Baratheon teaching Ser Davos to read. Here is “The Pointy End”, which for me recalls Princess Langwidere in Ozma of Oz. [JH]
After being officially cancelled earlier this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Free Comic Book Day is back! Though usually scheduled for the first Saturday in May each year, Diamond Comic Distributors have announced the event will take place in comic shops around the country with brand new free comics every week starting in July and running through September. Due to the length of the event now, it’s being rebranded as Free Comic Book Summer for this year. Retailers will receive five to six Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles in their weekly shipments during each week of the promotional window, the full slate of which you can find below.
“Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun,” said Joe Field, originator of FCBD, and owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. “In this very different year, Free Comic Book Day is more like Free Comic Book Summer… and there’s so much fun to discover in this year’s FCBD comics! So many cool stories are available for this stretched-out Free Comic Book Day 2020. I’m confident long-time fans and newcomers alike are going to find a story that’ll make them want to visit their local comic shop every week! Fans, bring your friends and family and head to your local comic shop every week starting July 15 through September 9 to check out the new, and fantastic, free comics available that week!”
(11) A RECORD NO ONE WANTS TO SURPASS. Rob Hansen has added a section on the 1970 UK Eastercon to his THEN fanhistory website, with photos and links to audiofiles.
SCI-CON the 1970 UK National Science Fiction Convention took place over the weekend of Friday, 27th March to Monday, 30th March. It was held in London at the Royal Hotel, Russell Square (located a hundred yards or so from Russell Square Underground station). It’s widely regarded as being the worst Eastercon ever held.
Well, I guess that’s frank enough!
Bill Burns’ Prologue gives immediate hints about why things didn’t go well.
…At the Oxford Eastercon in 1969, George Hay proposed with his then-usual enthusiasm that the 1970 convention should be held in London – without having done any prep work on finding a hotel (or indeed on anything else). In the absence of any other bids, George was awarded the con. At the time he was also starting something called “The Environmental Consortium” with an office in central London, whose aims were never quite clear to me, but which an on-line reference notes was one of George’s organisations to promote “applied science fiction”.
Despite winning the bid, George had no hotel, no committee, and no idea how to run a con. Derek Stokes and I looked at each other in dismay, and volunteered for the committee in the hope of steering the con at least partially along traditional lines, but George had his own agenda and couldn’t be restrained….
(12) HAMILTON. Some inside baseball about the Disney+ release of Hamilton.
An extremely rare Pokemon card, thought to be one of only seven ever produced, is up for auction online and experts said it could sell for up to $100,000.
The Pokemon Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer card, being sold by Heritage Auctions, is billed by the auction house as the “holy grail” of collectible cards and its condition was rated a perfect 10 by experts at PSA Card.
For the first time in more than three decades, research scientists have received grant money from NASA to search for intelligent life in outer space.
Specifically, the [$278K, 2 year ] grant will provide funding for a project to search for signs of life via “technosignatures.”
Grant recipient Avi Loeb of Harvard is quoted as saying:
“Such signatures might include industrial pollution of atmospheres, city lights, photovoltaic cells (solar panels), megastructures or swarms of satellites.”
Anogher grantee, Adam Frank (University of Rochester) said:
“The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has always faced the challenge of figuring out where to look. Which stars do you point your telescope at and look for signals? Now we know where to look. We have thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. The game has changed.”
On 20 July, Nasa will get its first opportunity to launch the Perseverance rover to Mars. Here, we answer some common questions about the mission.
What will the rover do?
The Perseverance rover will land on Mars to search out signs of past microbial life, if it ever existed. It will be the first Nasa mission to hunt directly for these “biosignatures” since the Viking missions in the 1970s.
The rover will collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for return to Earth at a future date. Perseverance will also study Martian geology and test out a way for future astronauts to produce oxygen for breathing and fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere.
In addition, a drone-like helicopter will be deployed to demonstrate the first powered flight on Mars. Perseverance will explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for at least one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).
The newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer is being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus.
Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer claimed the top spot on Monday, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than an IBM machine in the US.
The US machine, called Summit, came top of the bi-annual Top500 list the previous four times.
Fugaku’s victory broke a long run of US-China dominance, returning Japan to the top for the first time in 11 years.
Top500 ranks the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems.
Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open.
When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.
The room-sized machine lives in the city of Kobe and was developed over six years by Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the government-backed Riken Institute. Its name is another way of saying Mount Fuji.
Its performance was measured at 415.53 petaflops, 2.8 times faster than second-place Summit’s 148.6 petaflops. The US machine is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A supercomputer is classified by being more than 1,000 times faster than a regular computer.
Facebook has banned users trading in historical artefacts on the site.
It follows a campaign by academic researchers and an investigation by BBC News, exposing how items looted from Iraq and Syria were sold on Facebook.
One expert welcomed the move but said for anything to change, Facebook should invest in “teams of experts to identify and remove networks rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual posts”.
Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms.
(19) PLAIN GOOFY. The Screen Junkies continue their look at older movies with their “Honest Trailer” on A Goofy Movie.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]
Cue the Hamilton quotes: Soon the room where it happens will be your living room! Shout it to the rooftops that the Broadway sensation Hamilton will be available for home viewing this summer! Look around, look around to see how lucky we are to be alive in a world where Hamilton is coming to Disney+ on July 3, more than 15 months ahead of schedule!
What will be the effects when Hamilton joins the Disneyverse?
1, Does this mean Alex H has a chance to be a Jedi, and use the force to avoid being shot to death?
2, Will Hawkeye miss his shot?
3, Will the Avengers, or at least Spider-Man, get involved in the Rev War? Will Tony Stark pal around with Ben Franklin?
4, Will Paul Revere ride on Dumbo instead of his horse?
5, Will the Schuyler sisters get Frozen freeze-powers?
Is this enough to justify signing up for Disney+?
Good question — but realistically, either the free trial or a month’s worth should do it. It’s not like Hamilton is going to be a 12-episode season…unless they do the Hamilton/Star Wars/Avengers Crossover, where Luke gets to sing about not missing his shot, etc. Or Force Ghosts doing “What’d I Miss?”
“Luke the Son of Anakin,” whose lyrics were written by comedian Nick Jack Pappas, tells the Skywalker saga to a tune from the smash musical about the ten-dollar founding father. It parodies the show’s opening number with a spoiler-heavy summary of Luke’s journey from space farm boy to Jedi knight and finally to lost recluse in the latest installment of the series.
Hux [Hamilton Parody] (Aug 2016)
Luke Skywalker Hamilton (Dec 2015)
Darth Vader sings You’ll Be Back [Hamilton Parody] (Feb 2017)
Star Wars / Hamilton Awakens – The Musical (Sept 2016)
The update of these MS-DOS games comes from a project called eXoDOS, which has expanded over the years in the realm of collecting DOS games for easy playability on modern systems to tracking down and capturing, as best as can be done, the full context of DOS games – from the earliest simple games in the first couple years of the IBM PC to recently created independent productions that still work in the MS-DOS environment.
What makes the collection more than just a pile of old, now-playable games, is how it has to take head-on the problems of software preservation and history. Having an old executable and a scanned copy of the manual represents only the first few steps. DOS has remained consistent in some ways over the last (nearly) 40 years, but a lot has changed under the hood and programs were sometimes only written to work on very specific hardware and a very specific setup. They were released, sold some amount of copies, and then disappeared off the shelves, if not everyone’s memories.
It is all these extra steps, under the hood, of acquisition and configuration, that represents the hardest work by the eXoDOS project, and I recognize that long-time and Herculean effort. As a result, the eXoDOS project has over 7,000 titles they’ve made work dependably and consistently.
(2) THE WORD. Courtesy of ScienceFiction.com we learn that the Oxford English Dictionary’s “New Words List for October 2019” has loaded up on Star Wars terms. There are also a lot of additions you’d think would have gone into the OED years ago. Here are some of the October selections:
Jedi, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a member of an order of heroic, skilled warrior monks who are able to harness the mystical power of…
kapow, int.: Representing the sound of an explosion, a gunshot, a hard punch or blow, etc. Also in extended use, conveying the suddenness or powerful effect of an…
lightsabre, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a weapon resembling a sword, but having a destructive beam of light in place of a blade. Also: a…
Padawan, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: an apprentice Jedi (see Jedi n.). Also (often humorously) in extended and allusive use: a youthful…
force, n.1 sense Additions: With the and chiefly with capital initial. In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a mystical universal energy field which certain…
They, pron. sense 2c: Used with reference to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond to conventional sex and gender distinctions, and who has typically asked to be referred to as they (rather than as he or she).
(3) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A
Kickstarter appeal to raise $8,300 to fund publication of Vital:
The Future of Healthcare launched October 15. The
anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and
medicine, will include works from notable authors such as David Brin, James
Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline
Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others. Backers
will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for
early support of the project. The campaign will last until November 14, 2019.
The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose. “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.”
Other writers are in discussion to be part of the project, with the goal of securing support from about 10 additional authors.
Once published, all proceeds from the sale of Vital
will be donated to Loma Linda University Health, a global leader in education,
research and clinical care.
Book editor RM Ambrose is Assistant Fiction Editor at
the Hugo Award winning “StarShipSofa” podcast. He attended Taos
Toolbox in 2017 and is an Affiliate Member of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Writers of America (SFWA).
(4) THUMB OUT. Behind a paywall, Financial
Times book columnist Nilanjana Roy’s piece
in the October 5 Financial Times is about the 40th anniversary of The
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
He (Adams) was as much a futurologist, a wizard of predictions, as he was a writer. In the late 1970s, he dreamed up an ‘Electronic Thumb”–a device that looked like a large electronic calculator on which you could summon up a million ‘pages’–and perhaps my favourite robot of all time, Marvin the depressive Paranoid Android.
The first online translation service, Altavista’a 1995 Babelfish, was named after the fictional fish that translates languages in Hitchhiker when Arthur Dent sticks it in his ear. Deep Thought, the computer developed in the 1990s to play chess, was named in homage to Adams’s computer, which takes seven and a half million years to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ (Forty-two, as every Hitchhiker fan knows.)
STORY. Tim Goodman says people who have never read the graphic novel before
may get lost: “‘Watchmen’:
TV Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s difficult to fully describe the visual and storytelling audacity behind HBO’s Watchmen, a series that warps perception in keenly original ways. It’s based on the late-1980s cult comic books of the same name (co-created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), then given a wholly different spin by Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), a superfan of the source material but a wildly creative force of his own. This latest version (there was also a Zack Snyder movie in 2009) is simultaneously unique — it will certainly bring in fans of Lindelof’s work and HBO’s pedigree — and true to the spirit of the comics.
The challenge that Lindelof and HBO face is a pretty simple one: Watchmen will be utterly confusing without at least some passing knowledge of the origin story. This is a tale that begs for context, no matter how compelling and wonderfully baroque Lindelof’s telling is. So, yes, if you know nothing about Watchmen other than HBO’s tantalizing trailers (and a standout cast that includes Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons and others), you’d be well-served, at the very least, by reading the Wikipedia backstory. (Lindelof himself has said that if the series has new fans scrambling to discover the original work, that will be reward enough.)
(6) A THRONE OF METAL, AT LEAST. Actress Maisie Williams graces the latest cover of Metal.
The director shared the Hammer Museum stage with honoree Judy Chicago, presenters Gloria Steinem and Roxane Gay and performers Beck and Chris Martin at the record-setting Gala in the Garden fundraiser….
[Jordan Peele] He also dished out some of his early inspirations from the silver screen — with a nod to Martin Scorsese’s recent controversial statements about what qualifies as “cinema.”
“I can buy the premise for a second that this is a deserved thing, after all I spent so many hours growing up watching great cinema and absorbing art house classics of the 20th century like Ghostbusters 2, Gremlins 2, and Chud 2, all the twos,” he joked. “That’s my pathway of this great thing that Martin Scorsese calls cinema.”
He then got serious by expanding on his creative motivations.
“My passion is to entertain. I dream less about making a commentary about society than I do about getting a laugh or getting a scream or scaring anybody. Any audible noise that an audience can make, that’s my passion,” he explained. “Apparently to either get at something important or to just simply make people laugh, it involves a search of the same thing and that’s truth.”
Peele said that as he grew up, his perspective on life became “a little cynical,” and he found new truth in the exploration of what he refers to as “the human demon.”
“This is the idea that no matter what there is, whatever you do, there is an evil embedded into our DNA. It crystallizes when we get together. It’s in our tribalism, our nationalism, and our capitalism, our mob mentality, our obsession with categorization. We’re so good at masking our own evil from ourselves and so my obsession evolved to pulling down this mask,” he continued. “I figured why not try to reveal the truth in my language. Do it as entertaining as I could. I found early on that this would require a certain amount of vulnerability. if I was going to tap into fears that would resonate with others, I would need to explore and understand my own fears and my own faults.”
Laura Sirikul was on a mission. To the rest of the world, it was just October 4, but to movie fans like her, it was a galactic holiday—Triple Force Friday, when toys and merchandise from three upcoming Star Wars projects finally went on sale.
Sirikul ventured to big-box retailers around Pasadena, California, in search of items featuring her favorite character: Rose Tico, the quick-witted engineer played by Kelly Marie Tran. After hitting Target, Walmart, Hot Topic, and the Disney Store, Sirikul found herself asking a question that has since become a hashtag on social media: #WheresRose?
At the end of September, preview videos hyping the new merchandise showed a white T-shirt using the word “Rebel” as a backdrop for the character as she struck a heroic pose. “That ‘Rebel’ shirt was at the Disney Store, but she wasn’t on it,” Sirikul told Vanity Fair. “There was no Rose Tico at the mall.”
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
October 15, 1951 — I Love Lucy made its television debut on CBS. Not genre in any sense at all but still worth noting. Desi appeared in a short called “The Fountain of Youth” which is genre. Although Lucy didn’t do any genre, their series was the foundation for Desilu Productions which eventually brought Star Trek to TV.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 15, 1911 — James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction of a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections are available on iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1981.)
Born October 15, 1919 — E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best known for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. (Died 2010.)
Born October 15, 1924 — Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in Trek franchise. Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission Impossible, Wild Wild West, Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.)
Born October 15, 1926 — Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately 24 genre stories and 6 SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
Born October 15, 1932 — Virginia Leith, 87. The head in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Really. Truly.
Born October 15, 1947 — Lynn Lowry, 72. She is perhaps best known for her work in such horror films as George A. Romero’s The Crazies, David Cronenberg’s Shivers, Paul Schrader’s Cat People and David E. Durston I Drink Your Blood. Some of these are truly in bad taste.
Born October 15, 1955 — Tanya Roberts, 64. Stacey Sutton in A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s forget in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.
Born October 15, 1969 — Dominic West, 50. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on John Carter. His latest SFF role was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Off the Mark shows that this Halloween, if you won’t go to Mount TBR, your Mount TBR might come to you.
It could almost be a scene from a slapstick comedy: a marmot stands frozen in fear, slack-jawed and balanced on one foot, as it suddenly notices a charging fox.
The dramatic image, captured with perfect timing by Chinese photographer Yongqing Bao, has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, given out annually by London’s Natural History Museum.
Some months ago, I had dinner in New York with an old friend, one of the most senior figures in the American mystery community. We tend to differ on almost every subject under the sun, food and wine apart, but it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and I like to think that we have both mastered that art, for the most part.
Toward the end of the evening, my friend suggested that I had made two errors in my career. One was the decision not to write exclusively in the mystery genre, but to explore other areas of writing. This, he felt, had damaged me commercially—although, as I pointed out to him, it had benefited me creatively. My second error, he believed, was to have mixed the mystery genre with the supernatural. Whatever its benefits or disadvantages to me, either commercially or creatively, he believed that this simply should not have been done. For him, the supernatural had no place in the mystery novel, and there are many in mystery community who share his opinion.
Ahead of the eight-part dramatisation of the first of Philip Pullman’s best-selling His Dark Materials novels, the BBC’s Sian Lloyd describes her sneak-preview behind-the-scenes set visit earlier this year.
Huddled around braziers filled with warm coals or sitting with blankets wrapped over shoulders, close to a hundred shivering extras are trying to keep the cold at bay.
They are the Gyptians, the nomadic closely-knit boat-dwelling tribe at the centre of Pullman’s trilogy, who are about to get some disturbing news.
In the real world, we’re on the site of a former ironworks in Blaenavon in the south Wales valleys. There’s snow on the ground, and temperatures are still plummeting.
Cast members and crew have gathered for the opening scenes from the series, which covers the events of the novel Northern Lights, and which receives its premiere in London on Tuesday.
A Long time ago, in a library far away, (well, Swindon, actually), a shy schoolboy who loved books but was a slow reader, borrowed three science fiction books per week. He didn’t read them. Instead, mesmerised by the covers, he imagined his own stories to match the cover paintings which he stared at intently for hours.
Invited to tell his classmates about the books he’d read, neither they nor the teachers spotted the invention. Few, if any, teachers read sci-fi and even though the early 1960s may have been a peak point for the excitement surrounding mankind’s initial steps beyond the Earth, teachers would sooner bore any potential interest in books out of children with Charles Dickens rather than risk capturing their imagination with Philip K Dick.
Decades passed. The moon was reached and then, it seemed, forgotten. The faraway galaxies became the stuff of mainstream cinema and TV. Books celebrating the work and art of an earlier generation of sci-fi writers and illustrators appeared. The boy in the library of the early 1960s, now a man in a comic book/graphic novel shop at the end of the first decade of a new millennium, discovered a book about Richard M. Powers and became a time traveller, transported back to the smell of the paper, the plastic protective library book coverings and the universe laid out, jigsaw like, on his bed. Richard M. Powers had been the principal artist, illustrator among illustrators and guide to unleashing Andy Partridge’s imagination among the stars and galaxies.
Andy’s response was to record a sort of soundtrack to the paintings which had been so inspirational to him. The resulting album conjures, via 12 enigmatic pieces – akin to a virtual Musique concrete (with the computer/editing process replacing the more cumbersome scissors/tape method) – a musical accompaniment to the variety of alien landscapes which Powers illustrated so profusely….
(18) LITTLE KNOWN STUFF. “William
Shatner beams in with hit TV show at 88” on AFP says that Shatner’s paranormal mysteries show The
UnXplained has been picked up for a second season on the History Channel
and that Shatner’s secret for being productive at 88 is to “keep taking on
Shatner beamed into Cannes in southern France on Tuesday to beat the drum for the series — which tries to explain some of the mysteries of the world around us — at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment market.
“A friend of mine once received a call from someone who had passed away,” he said. Finding answers to such strange phenomena “was what this show is all about”, he told reporters.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge,
Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of
these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]
…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….
One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.
Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.
2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.
(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!
(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES.SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:
GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street BAD: The Santa Clause WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
GOOD: Rise of the Guardians BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night WEIRD: The Polar Express
GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas BAD: Santa’s Slay WEIRD: Fred Claus
GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas BAD: The Christmas Chronicles WEIRD: Christmas Evil
Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?
A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.
Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.
This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.
Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.
Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.
Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth.
2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?
C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive.
Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
December 16, 1917 – Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
December 16, 1927 – Randall Garrett. Ahhh Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
December 16, 1928 – Philip K. Dick. OK, confession time. I’m not a fan of his work so the only acquaintance I’ve with him is the first Bladerunner film which I’ve watched in its various forms many times. (Died 1982.)
December 16, 1937 – Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including Eva, The Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”
In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.
In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.
On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.
Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.
(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.
Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda:[Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.
I mean, that’s a little strong.
Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.
If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.
Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”
That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.
“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.
The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.
(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.
Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.
In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.
As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”
She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.
[Thanks to rcade, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Craig Russell, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]